Parental notification proposal rekindles Md. abortion debate

Girls seeking to bypass guardian would have to ask judge, not physician

March 07, 2003|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

An old fight resurfaced yesterday in Annapolis as opposing sides of the abortion debate squared off on a proposal to toughen the state's parental notification law for minors.

The bill by Del. Carmen Amedori, a Carroll County Republican, would change current law so that only a judge - not a doctor, as is now allowed - could permit girls to bypass the state's parental notification requirement.

"If my kid goes in for oral surgery, I have to be notified," Amedori said as she prepared to testify before the House Health and Government Operations committee hearing on the bill. "I should be notified for abortion, too."

FOR THE RECORD - In yesterday's editions of The Sun, an article on a legislative hearing about abortion incorrectly attributed a quote to Nancy Fortier, an associate director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. The statement about informed consent - "The doctor is the one who has the relationship with the patient." - was made by Wendy Royalty, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood. The Sun regrets the error.

But abortion-rights advocates are vowing to thwart the bill, saying it is an unnecessary infringement on a girl's abortion rights.

"If you can't talk to a parent about having an abortion, are you going to talk to some stranger?" asked Karyn Strickler, the former executive of the Maryland chapter of National Abortion Rights Action League. "It is more than a little intimidating."

Strickler noted the current law was a compromise overwhelmingly approved by the voters in a 1992 referendum. "It's a settled issue," Strickler said.

Anti-abortion activists said that under the current law, too many doctors are waiving the state's parental notification requirement. They said girls from other states who don't want to tell their parents are also traveling to Maryland to have abortions.

Current law states a doctor can perform an abortion without notifying a parent if it is believed the notification would lead to abuse. A doctor who believes a patient is "mature and capable of giving informed consent" can also waive the requirement, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

"The current law is not working. It's not protecting kids," said Nancy Fortier, an associate director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "We know parents are not being told."

But Wendy Royalty, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood, said that only doctors - not judges - can make an informed decision about what is best for the minor.

"The doctor is the one who has the relationship with the patient," Fortier said.

If the committee approves the bill, it will likely face a fierce fight on House floor.

Ehrlich, who campaigned as an abortion-rights supporter, has taken no position on the proposal.

But anti-abortion activists say they are emboldened this year because of the new Republican administration and what they believe to be an increasing number of lawmakers who have indicated they would support a change in the law.

Sun staff writer David Nitkin contributed to this article.

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